Wyclef Jean returns to his Hip-Hop roots with the gritty release of “DJ Drama Presents Wyclef Jean AKA Toussaint St Jean From The Hut To The Projects To The Mansion,” a collaboration with DJ Drama to be released November 10, 2009. The EP also features Eve, Timbaland, Maino, Cyndi Lauper, Lil Kim, among others.
Toussaint St. Jean, the title character of Wyclef’s new EP, is a persona suggested to Wyclef by his friend and collaborator T.I. The character Toussaint is loosely based on the 18th-century Haitian revolutionary hero, Toussaint L’Ouverture, a figure who brought Haiti to significance on the international stage.
Wyclef, who is originally from Haiti, inhabits the role of Toussaint and recreates himself in the spirit of a noble fighter, a man who says exactly what is on his mind. Toussaint’s rhymes hit hard, in a “militant style,” and make his words felt – and remembered.
And so what’s the difference between Wyclef and Toussaint?
“Toussaint is more direct,” Wyclef says. “He ain’t going to sugarcoat nothing. Whatever he’s thinking, he’s going to tell you. It’s like, I’ve still got this machete – my tongue is sharper than it’s ever been.”
To help create suitable musical settings for the grisly tales Toussaint has to tell, Wyclef turned to DJ Drama, who has worked extensively with T.I.
“I asked myself, ‘Who’s the toughest guy out there?'” Wyclef says. “Then I said, well, DJ Drama is pretty badass. So I called him and asked if he’d be interested in doing a mixtape. He heard what I was up to and he said, ‘We gotta do a book – this is a novel!’ He got excited, and it became more like an EP than a mixtape.”
The track that best captures the feelings that motivate “Toussaint St. Jean” is the intensely dramatic “The Streets Pronounce Me Dead,” a chronicle of Wyclef witnessing his own metaphoric funeral. It’s a commentary on Wyclef’s sense of himself as a forgotten man on the Hip-Hop scene, despite the groundbreaking impact of his former group, the Fugees, whose 1996 album “The Score” is the best-selling Hip-Hop album of all time, with sales of nearly twenty million copies worldwide.
The song cites the flood of younger rappers – Akon, Lil Jon, Kanye West, among them — who have risen up as Wyclef has gone onto prominence as a solo artist and producer for the likes of Shakira, Mick Jagger, Bono and John Legend.
Tracks like “Warriorz,” “Letter From the Penn” and “Toussaint vs. Bishop” paint riveting pictures, “hood stories,” as Wyclef describes them, of street life and its consequences. The gripping storytelling in those songs recalls the raw environments in Haiti and Brooklyn from which Wyclef emerged – “from the hut to the projects to the mansion,” as he memorably puts it in “Slumdog Millionaire.” It’s a story arc that these songs make compelling.
Wyclef views the message of “Toussaint St. Jean” as:
“Not everything that appears bad is really bad, because the real bad men move in silence. So be careful what you emulate, because it’s could get you six feet deep. If you don’t see me with a gun, it doesn’t mean that the guy with the gun is badder than me. I’ve been in those communities, but you’ve got to rise past that world.”
And, as always with Wyclef, there’s more to the story than meets the eye. “Toussaint St. Jean” represents just the first step on the road to another album he intends to release in 2010 titled simply “Wyclef Jean.” The album will reflect a three-dimensional portrait of an artist for whom the gritty sagas of Toussaint St. Jean are just one part.
Wyclef Jean is set to release his self titled LP “Wyclef Jean” in March 2010 through Columbia Records.
Here is the tracklisting for “DJ Drama Presents WYCLEF JEAN AKA Toussaint St Jean: FROM THE HUT TO THE PROJECTS TO THE MANSION” Track Listing:
1. Interlude – From The Hut, To The Projects, To The Mansion
2. Warrior’s Anthem
3. The Streets Pronounce Me Dead
4. Slumdog Millionairefeat. Cyndi Lauper aka Luscious Loo
5. Interlude – Every Now & Then
6. Walk Away
7. More Bottles feat. Timbaland
8. You Don’t Wanna Go Outside
9. Toussaint vs. Bishop
10. Interlude – The Struggle
11. We Made It
12. Suicide Love feat. Eve
13. Letter From The Penn
14. Robotic Love
15. Gangsta Girl feat. Lil Kim
16. Interlude – Tell The Kids The Truth
17. The Shottas